A Black Man Talks of Reaping

By Arna Bontemps 1902–1973 Arna Bontemps
I have sown beside all waters in my day.
I planted deep, within my heart the fear
that wind or fowl would take the grain away.
I planted safe against this stark, lean year.   

I scattered seed enough to plant the land
in rows from Canada to Mexico
but for my reaping only what the hand
can hold at once is all that I can show.

Yet what I sowed and what the orchard yields
my brother's sons are gathering stalk and root;
small wonder then my children glean in fields
they have not sown, and feed on bitter fruit.

Arna Bontemps, “A Black Man Talks of Reaping” (1926). Copyright 1926 by Arna Bontemps. Reprinted with the permission of Harold Ober Associates, Incorporated.

Source: American Poetry: The Twentieth Century Volume 2 (2000)

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Poet Arna Bontemps 1902–1973

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Subjects Social Commentaries, Jobs & Working, Race & Ethnicity, Activities

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Arna  Bontemps

Biography

Like his close friend Langston Hughes and their fellow writers in the Harlem Renaissance, Arna Bontemps explored African-American experience in a wide variety of genres. As a poet, novelist, historian, anthologist and archivist, he enriched and preserved black cultural heritage.

Bontemps was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, but moved with his family to Los Angeles at age three. After graduating in 1923 from Pacific Union College, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Jobs & Working, Race & Ethnicity, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Harlem Renaissance

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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